Crossing the line

Bloomberg’s handling of NYC marathon was in poor taste

On November 4, 2012

It took Mayor Bloomberg until the final 36 hours to cancel the New York City Marathon.

Last week, the New York City mayor stood firm in his defense even in the face of criticism, stating it would lift the city's spirits. New York Road Runners, the directing organization of the race, promoted the event as a symbol of resilience.

Until Friday afternoon, at least. That's when the idea of the marathon became less of a symbol of resilience and more of an insult to a recovering city. That Bloomberg waited so long and let people feel so angry and desperate before canceling is just a testimony to how atrociously he handled the entire situation.

Bloomberg changed his initial decision because of public outrage, because of charges of insensitivity. Dan Halloran, a New York City Councilman, was just one person angered at the way Bloomberg handled things, before and after the cancellation.            

"It was big business that made him change his mind. Thanks for nothing you elitist," he posted on Facebook. "It was 4 days before you got to Staten Island and have you been to Breezy in Queens? Didn't think so!"

The marathon is a major money generator for the city, bringing in an estimated $340 million, and the 47,500 runners contribute an estimated $17.3 million in taxes. That money goes to pay public officials, officers and teachers, according to Howard Wolfson, deputy mayor for government affairs and communication.

But the difficult decision is the right decision sometimes. The wrong thing to do is to ignore Sandy and pretend that everything is okay, and that's what the marathon would've done.

Whether or not the marathon would have the power to rebuild morale, a concept that's already entirely questionable while the city is being rebuilt, it's in bad taste to hold a race that starts on Staten Island - where 19 residents died last week - and avoids the areas of the city that were hit the hardest and concludes in Central Park, which was just closed days before because of dangerous conditions.

The New York City Marathon is basically a parade, and you'd be marching them through five battered boroughs loaded with people focused on getting their lives back on track - the same people who have been without transportation and power for almost a week. Bloomberg was ready to provide blankets and generators to nearly 50,000 runners while there were millions of people without heat.

There would be 47,500 runners, all who needed to be housed around the city and all who needed transportation (they're not going to run everywhere) and utilities and food, on top of the residents who all needed the same thing. They would be overstressing a city and a system that is already out of place.

The marathon's cancellation raised a question about the status of some of the city's other events during the week. Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade felt there were bigger things to be concerned about and reportedly donated his game fee to relief effort. Thursday's Knicks at Nets season opener was postponed due to mass transit. Despite being no damage done to Brooklyn's Barclays Center itself, 80 percent of the people who come to the game arrive via public transportation.

So assuming that is accurate, that means Bloomberg was perfectly fine with people traveling into the city from all across the globe even though the city was too damaged for people to travel between boroughs.

Some of the runners said they feel robbed for having to come here and having the marathon taken away. But they are the people who can come and run and leave the city without any emotional attachment to the devastation that occurred. The people who should be taken care of and cared about in this situation are the people who live in New York City and are living with this.



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